Integrated Library System: Everything You Need to Know

Supriya Saxena

Supriya Saxena

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: February 24, 2021

What is Integrated Library System?

An ILS or integrated library system is formed by a group of interconnected operations that can streamline inputs and retrieve information for researchers and information professionals.

An ILS contains back end or staff functions that can keep proper track of all the purchases a company makes, saves receipts of print and digital materials, and catalogs or enters data and records. The second half of an ILS contains a series of retrieval components put together through a discovery layer, which is responsible for providing complete access to catalogs, collections, and circulation.

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 Here are some of the major components of an ILS system:

  • Cataloging
  • Serials
  • Acquisitions
  • Catalog

Internal components of an ILS system often include reporting functions and managing interlibrary reference queries and loan requests. This help section is built to help the staff and researchers alike as it provides functions like entering data and configuring queries.

What Is the Purpose of Having an Integrated Library System?

An Integrated Library system can be a simple inventory program or even a complex network of deeply interconnected components. While some of these libraries are purely web-based, others may be hosted on the vendor or institutional servers and computers and servers.

Before investing in an ILS, it is important to understand the size of an institution’s holdings. For an information center to run smoothly, it depends on the operations that can control the control inventory and provide research and reference services.

The ILS complexity depends on the type of requirements an institution has and the kind of operations the company needs to perform. Certain institutions might not require any circulation of materials. Still, even in such situations, they need to have a circulation component that can request information from external researchers and staff, track internal use, and photocopy and scan requests via Interlibrary Loan Agreements.

Being able to track documents is integral because it delivers information services to the staff. A traditional ILS typically offers a set of components operations, and certain advanced systems may include a host of exciting features. However, in other situations, institutions can choose a set of components they require with whatever knowledge reservoirs they have. They can choose to integrate additional modules as and when their collections and requirements expand as they proceed further.

How Do Special Librarians Leverage Integrated Library Management System?

Special librarians are designed to support activities that range through different services and deliverables. These software systems are crafted to precisely acquire, organize, and share external and internal resources and information.

Integrated library systems or library automation systems (LAS) are part of web-based and vendor-hosted (software-as-a-service, known as SaaS) services that provide excellent features of a traditional library that go way beyond the classic library automation capabilities:

 Special librarians also use resource management to make decisions regarding training, purchases, department, or practice support. They can also help make decisions for marketing underutilized but valuable resources.

What Are the Public Facing Elements of Integrated Library Software?

These elements form the heart and soul of an ILS and contain all the records of institutions in one place. They can easily be accessed via title, author, and subject; and call number queries including natural or keyword language queries.

Some of these also offer exclusive browse functions that can be accessed when a query is entered. This function is extensively used to search authors and subject headings.

The latest catalogs typically offer print-bound materials along with audio-visual materials. They also provide easy access to archival records and three-dimensional objects. Institutes can easily access digitized items and electronic resources via catalogs by means of links, attachments, and PURLS.

Also Read: Revive Your School Library with Library Management Software

The different reports comprised within a catalog module include the following items:

  • Shelf-lists
  • Formats
  • Location and storage-related information and allocation
  • Call number sequences
  • Subject/author/title lists
  • Reports that sync with use and circulation records
  • Here are some of the public-facing elements of ILS.

1. Managing Circulations and Loans

Circulation modules can help institutes keep track of all the resources that circulate within information centers.

A traditional circulation operation or program would typically include the following items:

  • Maintaining patron records
  • Locating any item (which typically lies in the catalog module)
  • Making optimum use of records for connecting catalog records of items borrowed with the borrower or patron
  • Requesting returns of all the circulating items
  • Sending overdue notices
  • Tracking requests for borrowing or renewing items
  • Maintaining interlibrary loan of scanning and duplication or physical materials.

Several circulation systems offer detailed internal circulation records on all the items that are used in-house or in special areas such as museum collections or archives. They also maintain records of why these items were removed from the shelves but not from the room or building. They keep a tight log of all the requests and downloads pertaining to digital and electronic resources and they maintain data on what items are on exhibition or display.

Some institutions can use such systems to notify when materials are unavailable for public access due to digitization, repair, preservation, or binding.

Every component of the circulation module is designed to connect the patron records with that of the catalog. Certain reporting functions include the following:

The number and types of materials that are currently in circulation

  • Items that are borrowed
  • Items in use
  • Or the downloaded items

Circulation reports typically focus on the costs involved to replace damaged or lost items. They also include expenses for shipping materials to external locations. And they include details around the loan amounts and borrowing of materials within the institution to other institutions.

These systems can easily track all the interlibrary loan requests regarding articles, items, all the scanning, and photocopying related activities within the institution or beyond. It also included compliance with user fees and copyright. Institutes can easily generate reports to keep track of all the documents that are currently in circulation.

2. Track Information to Retrieve and Reference Requests

The ILS can also be used to display reference queries made by corporate researchers, in-house staff, and external users. With this, the staff can easily track how the queries are flowing from the start – how and when they are received from the information center when they will reach the completion stage, and when the requested information or materials will be delivered.

ILS is designed to include all the management-related components that are used to track requests pertaining to materials, information, and the interlibrary loan of collections.  A digital resource professional will be familiar with all the ins and outs of licensing the digital assets. They will also know whether such materials need to be loaned or copied for interlibrary loan requests.

An ILS management component can also be used to compile reports of all the used assets, and reference requests, based on the management requirements and how sophisticated the system is. Reporting functions form an essential component of ROI validations.

How do you evaluate and select an integrated library system/library automation system?

The library software can simplify the tasks for librarians and administrators by presenting an automated platform that can easily issue books, track statuses of the items, engage patrons, among other things.

When it comes to selecting a school library software, it is important to consider the following factors:

1. Budget

It is important to consider the price of the software and calculate any additional features you might need as add-ons in the near future.

2. The Type of Library

To understand what kind of software you need, you need to understand the audience your library caters to.  Do you need the system for school, public, academic, or special libraries? Understand that each library type will have different requirements because it serves different sets of patrons.

3. The Size of Staff

Make sure to choose software that can cater to all members – from volunteers to IT staff and administrative access. You should invest in software that can easily fill in any gaps if you fall short on staff.

4. Collection Size

Most importantly, the size of the collection you harbor will play a key role in determining what type of features you’ll need for supporting your daily management and tasks.

5. Compatibility

Get a solution that you can seamlessly integrate with all the partners you currently work with.

Here is how an integrated library management system can simplify your workflows. 

Did we miss out on any key aspect? Let us know in the comments below!

Supriya Saxena
A logophile by heart, Supriya loves to research and write about the latest technology and trends. She believes that writing is the best medium to influence people in a positive way and has 3+ years of writing experience.

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